Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets, Vegan

Multigrain Unni Appam (sweet fried dumplings)

Unni appams are sweet fried dumplings offered to the Gods and often eaten as a snack in Kerala. You will find them stacked in tea shops (chaya kada) inside glass chambers. Unni appam is a good option when you need to make a sweet item that will last for a few¬†days. Traditionally, unni appams are made with raw rice. Check the recipe here. I have seen them being made with maida as well. The rice variety tends to get slightly hard and lose its charm beyond a day unless you add a banana in the batter. Maida unni appams retain their softness. I do not use maida in my unni appam for health reasons. I know what you are thinking, deep fried seems to be OK but maida is not. I am just trying reduce the sinning quotient here. Call me a hypocrite ūüėČ

I have tried experimenting with unni appam batter by adding different types of flour and other ingredients like jack fruit jam (chakka varatti). Most of the times the experiments turn out really yum. Very rarely, some ingredients could make the appams too soft and cumble easily when you fry them or make them too hard. So yes, you could boldly experiment with the unni appam batter with a very high success rate! This time, I added various types of flour to appam batter and the results were amazing. Here is my version of multigrain unni appam recipe. The different types of flour are optional and you could choose to omit depending on availability and personal choice.

Ingredients
Raw rice flour – 1 cup
Wheat flour – 1 cup
Rawa/sooji (optional) – 1/4 cup
Bran (optional) – 1/4 cup
Popped ragi flour (optional) – 1/2 cup
Coconut sliced and cut into small pieces – 1/4 cup
Jaggery – 2 cups
Ripe banana of medium size (elaichi or the sour variety) – 1
Cardamom – 2-3 pods
Black sesame seeds – 1 tsp
Water – 3 cups
Ghee/Coconut oil (for frying) – 2 cups

Method
Mix the jaggery in 1/2 cup of water and bring it to boil. Remove from fire when all the jaggery pieces have melted. Strain and keep aside. Peel the banana, mash, and mix it in jaggery syrup (you could even blend it in a mixer to ensure smooth consistency). Add all flours into the jaggery syrup. Add little amounts of water if required and stir. The batter should be of the consistency of idli batter. Cut the coconut into small pieces, and roast in ghee until the edges start to turn golden brown. Add this to the unni appam batter along with sesame seeds and powdered cardamom. Mix well and let the batter rest for a couple of hours.

You can adjust the quantity of jaggery to the sweetness level you prefer.

Instead of rice flour, you can soak raw rice in water for 3-4 hours, drain the water and grind it to a smooth paste using very little water and use it.

Ragi is a very important grain in Karnataka and is used in daily cooking in a variety of forms. Popped ragi flour is available in Karnataka markets. You can substitute this with normal ragi flour.

You can use sunflower oil to make unni appam but using ghee or coconut oil gives it an authentic taste and flavor.

string of unni appamsPlace the unni appam mold (paniyaram pan) on fire and add ghee/coconut oil. When you start getting the smell of oil/ghee, turn fire to medium. Pour spoonfuls of batter into each pit. When the sides turn golden brown, turn over the unni appam. Keep turning the unni appams in between, till you get a dark golden brown color on both sides. Remove from oil, and drain on kitchen towels/tissue paper, and serve.

Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets, Tiffin

Kesari Bath/Sooji Halwa

Kesari bath/sooji halwa is one of my favorite sweets. It is a common neivedyam (food offering made to God) and a sweet served along with breakfast at Palakkad Iyer weddings. It is made even when there is no special occasion but just to satisfy sweet craving or when you have unexpected guests. It can be made easily, does not consume time, and most people love it. The best kesari bath that I have had is at Iyer weddings and at the Juhu ISCKON temple. Mani’s Cafe (next to Palakkad Jn railway station) serves melt in the mouth kesari bath.¬†Palakkad Iyers add a little bit of pacha karpooram (Borneo-Camphor/Kacha Karpoor) and this gives a nice smell and taste to the kesari bath. Yellow or red food color is also added to this recipe but I do not prefer this.

The traditional kesari is warm, greasy, soft, and has a melt in the mouth texture. It has oodles of ghee that adds to its taste yet it doesnt drip ghee. Many a times the amount of ghee is cut down in homemade variations of kesari bath. Water, ghee, and sugar proportions are critical to make the perfect kesari. Too much water, sugar, or ghee can spoil the taste and consistency of the kesari. Although I have seen my mother make this dish very often, I always get confused about the quantity of water to be used for this dish and for upma. I referred to this blog to make this recipe and my kesari came out just right.

Ingredients:
Rava (sooji/semolina) – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 cup (depending on your taste)
Ghee – 3/4 cup
Water – 2-1/2 cups (you can opt to add milk to this)
Saffron (Kesar) – 3-4 strands
Cashew/raisins/almond pieces – A few
Cardamom powder (elaichi) – 1/4 tsp
Pacha karpooram (borneo-camphor/kacha karpoor) – very little (optional)
Food color – optional

Method:
Add the saffron strands to a small cup of warm milk/water and keep aside. Add half a cup of ghee to a thick bottomed wok and let it melt in medium heat. Turn down the heat to minimum and add the cashews/raisins/almond pieces and roast until golden brown. Remove them from the ghee and keep it aside.

sooji halwaTo this ghee, add rawa and keep stirring until the rawa turns color to golden brown. This will take about 5-7 minutes. I like to roast the rawa to golden brown although it is sufficient to roast just until the rawa starts to change color. While roasting the rawa, boil water in a pan. If you are adding milk, ensure that you use 1 cup milk and 1-1/2 cups of water. Ensure that that amount of water and milk put together is not more than 3 cups. Turn down the heat and add this boiling water/milk to the rawa cautiously. Make sure that you stand a little away from the stove while doing this as it might splutter. Stir this and make sure there are no lumps. Cook this for about 2-3 minutes. When the rawa is cooked and the water/milk content reduced, add sugar and mix well. The sugar starts to melt and the mixture once again becomes a little watery. Cook until the mixture thickens and water content reduces. Add the remaining ghee and stir. Add cardamom powder, cashew/raisins/almond pieces, and saffron dissolved in milk/water.

I prefer to have kesari bath warm although you can refrigerate this and serve it cold also.

jaggery kesariP.S. (added July 14th) – I tried making kesari bath with jaggery instead of sugar and it turned out to be really nice. So had to share it with all of you. The method remains almost the same. Measuring jaggery can be slightly tricky and if you use blocks of jaggery, you will need to make a wild guess. One thing you can do is pound the jaggery blocks and measure it using the same cup you used to measure the rava. Water should be three times the quantity of rava used.

Ingredients:
Rava – 1 cup
Ghee – 3/4 cup
Jaggery – 1 cup
Water – 3 cups
Saffron (Kesar) – 3-4 strands
Cashew/raisins/almond pieces – A fistful
Cardamom powder (elaichi) – 1/4 tsp

Method:
Soak saffron in a tablespoon of warm water. Keep aside. Dissolve jaggery in three cups of water. Using a strainer, strain this mixture to remove any dirt. Keep this water-jaggery mixture on the stove on low fire. Meanwhile, pour ghee into a thick bottomed pan. Keep fire on low. Put the cashew, rasins and almond pieces into ghee and roast the dry fruits. Remove the dry fruits from ghee when they turn golden brown and keep aside. Note that if you are using almonds, you will need to either soak them in water for 3-4 hours or blanch them and then peel and cut into smaller pieces.

In the same thick bottomed pan, to the melted ghee, add rava and roast on low fire for 4-5 minutes until rava changes color to light brown. When the rava has lost its raw smell and you start getting a finely roasted smell, add the jaggery water mixture which is kept on low fire in the next stove. Stir and add the hot jaggery-water mixture. The mixture starts to bubble and thicken. Add the soaked saffron. Keep stirring until moisture content reduces and the mixture starts to leave the sides. At this stage, you could add one more tablespoon of ghee. This is entirely optional and adds more sin, glaze, and taste to the kesari bath. Add cardamom powder and roasted dry fruits. Mix well. Jaggery kesari bath is ready. This is slightly more healthier as compared to the sugar version.

Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Sweets, Tiffin, Vegan

Ela Ada (Sweet Parcels)

Ela ada and steamed plantain

Ela in Malayalam means leaf (in this case banana leaf) and ada means thick flat bread. Back home at Palakkad, ela ada is a  must item on the day of Thiruvonam (harvest festival in Kerala) and sure shot on the menu when special people visit home. Ela ada, although a little time consuming, is a fairly easy dish to make. Nothing can go wrong with an ela ada. A mix of coconut and jaggery cannot be anything short of yummy. Simply coat this with a rice paste and steam it, and these sweet parcels are ready.

Elai adai

The ela ada filling offers a lot of room for creativity. My mother makes three versions, to be precise 4. One with the jaggery and coconut filling; another with jaggery, coconut, and jackfruit jam filling; another with coconut and sugar filling; and the one with coconut and salt filling. I have heard that in other parts of Kerala ela ada is made with beaten rice, jaggery, and banana pieces as fillings. Although I have never had this, it definitely sounds interesting.

Another reason ela ada is so unique is because they are steamed and contain no oil. One can eat them without feeling guilty although diabetics need to watch out for all that jaggery! Still, its better than sugar intake.

On a day my mother decides to make ela ada, all of us are in high spirits. We split the¬†chores and participate in all the tasks, especially hunting for the banana leaves, cleaning¬†the leaves and tearing them into appropriate pieces, adequately drying them in the sun,¬†grating the coconut, and spreading the rice batter on the leaves. The filling is¬†irresistibly tasty and as soon as it is made, a good portion of it disappears quickly into our tummies. Enough ranting about the ela ada. Let’s look at how to make these wrapped up irresistibles.

Ingredients for filling:

Coconut ‚Äď 1 (medium size)
Jaggery ‚Äď 250 gms
Jack fruit jam/Chakka Varatti ‚Äď 1 cup (optional)
Cardamom/Elaichi powder – 1/2 tsp
Water – 1/2 cup

Method:
Grate the coconut and keep aside. Heat a thick deep bottomed vessel (kadai). Pour water and add jaggery. Let it melt completely. Turn off the fire and sieve to remove dirt from the jaggery. Clean the kadai and pour the jaggery syrup into the kadai and turn on the heat to medium. The syrup starts foaming and then settles down to thicken. Add the grated coconut and stir. When the water reduces and mixture thickens, add the jackfruit jam and elaichi powder. Remove from fire.

This is the stage where my mother has to fiercely guard the filling from me lest there is none left when it is finally time to make the ada! <<wicked grin>> On a more serious note, this filling is extremely tempting and is as good to be had without any further additions.

Ingredients for rice paste:
Raw rice (or rice powder) ‚Äď 250 gms
Water – As needed
Gingely oil/til oil (optional) – 1 tsp

Filling and rice batter

Method:
You can make the batter in two different ways. The first method is more preferable as it gives better results where the rice coating on the adai is softer and does not stick to the outer leaf at all.

Method 1: Heat a cup of water and bring to boiling point. Once it starts bubbling, turn off the heat and add small quantities to the rice flour use a ladle to mix the water into the rice flour. Add a pinch of salt. Mix well to make a soft and firm dough. The consistency should be similar to that of idiyappam dough or modakam dough. Keep aside.

Method 2: Wash the rice and soak it in water for around 2-3 hours. Grind to make a fine and smooth paste. The batter should not be too watery or very thick. The consistency should be such that you should be able to spread it on a leaf using the back of a spatula. If you are using rice powder, simply mix water to the rice powder to prepare the batter. Keep the batter aside. You can add the gingely oil to the batter at this stage. This is optional. Wash, clean, and cut the banana leaves into small rectangle or square pieces. Turn on the gas stove flame to medium and show the banana leaf over the flame lightly ensuring that the leaf turns color but does not get burnt. This makes the leaf flexible and it can be folded easily without it breaking or causing it to tear.

Take the banana leaf bit and spread it inner side facing up. Take a ladle full of rice batter and spread it across the leaf leaving half inch space free on all sides. The rice batter should be spread like a thick dosa. If you are using the first method to make a tight dough of the rice flour, you may take a fistful of rice dough and use your fingers to pat it gently and spread a thin layer of dough on the leaf.

spread the rice paste

Take a spoon full of the filling and place it on one side of the rice spread on the banana leaf. Spread the filling in such a way that half the area of the spread rice should have the sweet filling as a topping.

Add filling

Grab the two ends of the leaf where the rice batter is without topping and fold this to the other ends of the leaf. Now the leaf has one folded side and three open sides. Lightly fold the top of the leaf and then the sides of the leaf that are open to make a sealed packet.

Repeat these steps to make similar packets until you either run out of batter, filling, or leaves. Leftover filling is not a problem at all. It is so delicious by itself and can be finished in a jiffy!

If you run out of filling mid way, instead of the filling you could add some grated coconut and sprinkle a spoon of sugar and make these sweet parcels. If you have a diabetic in the house, you could add adequate salt to the leftover batter, spread it on the leaf, and add grated coconut. You see, there is a parcel for everyone!

Arrange the sealed packets on an idli stand and steam cook for around 10-15 minutes. Turn off and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.

Steamed ela ada

When you open the packet, if the filling or the rice batter sticks only to one side, then it means that it is adequately cooked.

Opened-elai-adaiSteamed pan poli

 

 

 

 

 

Ela ada - sugar version

The aroma of steamed banana leaf combined with jaggery, jackfruit jam, and rice is heavenly.